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arch 12, 1943. It was a sunny morning back then in Valmozzola (Italy) when about sixty partisans assaulted a train full of Mussolini’s soldiers. Two officers of the X Flottiglia Mas, one of the most important military corps of the Italian Social Republic, were killed during the hijacking. Reprisals were already on their way. A few hours later, members of the same military corp together with Nazis that were fighting in the area broke in a partisans’ refuge. Some were killed on the spot, while others were brought to the railway station of Valmozzola. When the partisans found out that they were going to be shot on their backs, they argued that they wanted to be shot on their chest as true fighters. Before dying, they shouted “Viva l’Italia!”, long live Italy.

You might wonder what this flashback was for, as the story you’re going to read has nothing to do with WWII. The answer is soon provided. The main character of this story, the man that planned and put in action a coup in Italy, is Junio Valerio Borghese, who was the chief of the X Flottiglia Mas.

Junio Valerio Borghese and Fascism

Borghese was the descendant of a historic Italian noble family born in 1906. When he was young he was captivated by Mussolini and Fascism’s ideas. He became famous during WWII because of some bold missions that took place in the Mediterranean Sea. When Mussolini lost his power, Borghese followed his leader in the newly established Italian Social Republic in Northern Italy where he took the command of the X Flottiglia Mas. When Fascism was finally over, he was arrested and convicted. Thanks to an amnesty, he soon gained freedom again.

Junio Valerio Borghese in 1944 (Source: Public Domain – Wikimedia Commons)

Borghese in the Aftermath of WWII

In 1951 Borghese became the president of the Movimento Sociale Italiano (Italian Social Movement), the only far-right party allowed the compete in elections and to be seated in the democratic Parliament. But as he still believed in Fascist ideas and the party couldn’t pursue them being now under a new democratic regime, he left the party two years later. From that moment onwards, Borghese started to take part in the activities of some extra-Parliamentary far-right movements.

In 1968 Borghese founded the Fronte Nazionale (National Front) with the aim of subverting the national institutions, as secret services reported. While undergoing political activity, he also financed paramilitary groups such as Ordine Nuovo (New Order) and Avanguardia Nazionale (National Vanguard). The Venetian branch of Ordine Nuovo would have then been the first terroristic organization to carry out a terrorist attack in Italy. On December 12, 1969 a bomb exploded at the National Agrarian Bank in Milan, provoking the death of 17 people and 88 injured. The perpetrators were some members of Ordine Nuovo together with the acquiesce of some diverted agents of the Italian secret services, but this is another story. Anyway, in 1970 Borghese had the required military and political strength to put into practice his plans for a coup.

The Coup’s Plan

The coup’s plan included the occupation of the Ministry of the Interior and the Ministry of Defense, the deportation of political rivals, the kidnapping of the President of the Republic Giuseppe Saragat and the murder of the head of the police Angelo Vicari. Another target was the headquarters of the Italian public television broadcaster RAI, from which Borghese would have given a speech about the occurred coup. Even though less important for the fulfillment of the plan, also the town of Sesto San Giovanni had to be occupied. The reason is that Sesto San Giovanni was a stronghold of the Italian Communist Party, deemed as the “Italian Stalingrad”.

The Execution of Borghese’s Coup

Everything started the night between the 7th and the 8th of December 1970. Hundreds of Borghese’s supporters gathered in Rome and in other cities such as Milan. Some of them succeeded in occupying the Ministry of the Interior and seized the weapons they needed. In the meantime, also the Ministry of Defense was conquered. Then, 187 members of the Corpo Forestale dello Stato, one of the Italian police agencies, reached the headquarters of the RAI, ready to get into action. In Northern Italy, Sesto San Giovanni capitulated. The coup was about to succeed when suddenly Borghese ordered to stop the operations. What happened?

Public funerals in Milan after the terrorist attack to the National Agrarian Bank in 1969 (Source: Public Domain – Wikimedia Commons)

Different Versions About the Coup’s Failure

There are a lot of versions about the occurrences of that night. One comes from Amos Spiazzi, a general involved in the occupation of Sesto San Giovanni. According to him, the coup would have been a fake coup suddenly repressed by the Italian Government. Spiazzi argued that the coup would have helped the Government to be free to enact special laws that would have been unconstitutional in the context of social and political order. To some witnesses, Borghese was aware of this, to others he wasn’t. Furthermore, some said that the coup didn’t fail because it was repressed by the Government, but because Borghese found out the trap and stopped its execution. Another version identifies the American secret services as the responsible for the failure of the coup. According to this version, the USA would have accepted the new Italian political order only if Giulio Andreotti had been the head of it. As Andreotti refused, the American secret services ordered the cancellation of the plan.

Borghese’s Speech to the Italians

Fifty years have passed since that night, but the doubts are still far from being solved, as for lots of other stories from the Italian 70s. Nevertheless, the programmed speech Borghese would have made if the coup had succeeded was revealed in 2006 in a book called “Cuori Neri” written by the Italian journalist Luca Telese:

“Italians, the hoped-for political turn, the long-awaited coup d’état has taken place. The political formula that has governed us for twenty-five years, the one that has brought Italy to the brink of economic and moral collapse, has ceased to exist. In the next few hours, in later announcements, you will be indicated the most important and appropriate measures to face the current imbalances of the Nation. The armed forces, the police, the most competent and representative men of the Nation are with us; at the same time, on the other hand, we can assure you that the most dangerous enemies, those who, to be clear, wanted to leave the country to the strangers, have been made harmless.

Italians, the State we will create will be an Italy without adjectives or political colors. It will have only one flag. Our glorious tricolor! Soldiers of land, sea and air, armed forces, we entrust you with the defense of our homeland and the restoration of the internal order. No special laws will be promulgated nor special courts will be established, we only ask you to enforce the laws already in force. From this moment, no one will be able to mock you without being punished, to offend you, to hurt you in soul and body, to kill you. In returning the glorious TRICOLOR into your hands, we invite you to shout our bursting hymn to love: ITALY, ITALY, LONG LIVE ITALY!”

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